Property Law

Michigan Abandoned Property Law: A Comprehensive Guide

Ever wondered what happens to property left behind when someone moves out or disappears? Michigan has specific laws addressing this scenario, known as abandoned property laws. These regulations ensure that property owners and tenants are both protected and have clear guidelines to follow. In this article, we’ll dive deep into Michigan abandoned property law, unraveling its intricacies, and providing you with a comprehensive understanding. So, let’s get started!

Understanding Abandoned Property

What is Considered Abandoned Property?

In Michigan, property is generally considered abandoned when the tenant has vacated the premises, and there is clear evidence that they do not intend to return. This could be due to non-payment of rent, vacating without notice, or simply leaving behind belongings after moving out. The law is designed to protect both landlords and tenants, ensuring a fair process for dealing with abandoned items.

Legal Definitions

Michigan law outlines specific criteria for determining when property is abandoned. According to the Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL), abandoned property is any personal property left behind by a tenant who has either voluntarily vacated the rental unit or been evicted.

Steps for Handling Abandoned Property

Step 1: Determine Abandonment

Before taking any action, landlords must establish that the property is indeed abandoned. This often involves checking for signs such as unpaid rent, disconnected utilities, and absence of the tenant for an extended period. It’s crucial to document these findings to avoid any legal disputes.

Step 2: Notice to Tenant

Once abandonment is suspected, the landlord must send a written notice to the tenant’s last known address. This notice should state the landlord’s belief that the property is abandoned and give the tenant a specific period (usually 10 days) to respond or reclaim their belongings.

Step 3: Storing the Property

If the tenant does not respond within the specified period, the landlord has the right to take possession of the property. However, they must store the items in a safe location for a minimum of 30 days. This gives the tenant a final opportunity to reclaim their possessions.

Step 4: Disposal of Property

After the 30-day period, if the tenant has not reclaimed their property, the landlord can dispose of it. This can involve selling, donating, or discarding the items. Any proceeds from the sale must first cover the costs of storage and sale, with any remaining balance owed to the tenant.

Legal Considerations and Landlord Responsibilities

Documentation and Record-Keeping

Proper documentation is vital throughout the process of handling abandoned property. Landlords should keep detailed records of all communications, notices, and actions taken. This documentation can serve as evidence in case of any legal disputes.

Avoiding Legal Pitfalls

Landlords must adhere strictly to the legal procedures for handling abandoned property to avoid potential lawsuits. Missteps, such as disposing of property too early or failing to provide adequate notice, can result in legal repercussions.

Tenant Rights

Even though the property is abandoned, tenants still have rights. They must be given a fair opportunity to reclaim their belongings and any proceeds from the sale of their items. Failure to do so can lead to legal action against the landlord.

FAQs about Michigan Abandoned Property Law

What if the tenant claims the property after the notice period?

If the tenant claims their property within the 30-day storage period, the landlord must return the items. The tenant may be required to pay for any storage costs incurred.

Can landlords charge for storage?

Yes, landlords can charge reasonable storage fees for keeping the abandoned property. These fees should be documented and reasonable based on local rates.

What happens to unclaimed sale proceeds?

After covering storage and sale costs, any remaining proceeds must be returned to the tenant. If the tenant cannot be located, the funds may need to be handled according to state unclaimed property laws.


Navigating Michigan abandoned property laws can be complex, but understanding the process helps protect both landlords and tenants. By following the legal guidelines and documenting each step, landlords can handle abandoned property efficiently and fairly.